By Sarah Small
In Houston, 25 sixth grade students are quickly becoming ILLINOIS fans under the careful watch of their teacher Stephanie Chin, a 2008 graduate of the College of Business.
Chin teaches at Project Chrysalis Middle School where she is a member of the Houston Corps of Teach for America. This is a non-profit organization that recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income communities. Chin said the intention of the program is to give college graduates the opportunity to experience first hand the education gap facing the country.
“I first heard about (Teach for America) in my junior year but dismissed the idea because I knew they were a highly selective organization and I thought I wanted to do consulting,” Chin said. “I interned in consulting the summer after my junior year and found myself craving a job with more purpose.”
The teachers and administrators at the middle school where Chin teaches make an effort to promote a college-bound culture, she said. As a way of promoting an interest in college and continuing education for the students, the school sponsors a College T-shirt Day every month.
“The students are required to wear uniforms every day, so they enjoy college t-shirt day as a way to show off their favorite colleges and escape their uniforms,” Chin said.
On the first College T-shirt Day of the school year, Chin distributed ILLINOIS and College of Business T-shirts to her students. The T-shirts were collected and donated by Dean John Hedeman; Chin contacted him at the end of the last school year and asked his assistance in providing them to her students .
“A lot of our students are not able to afford to by the college gear and may not even be aware of the colleges out there,” Chin said.
To celebrate their new T-shirts and College T-shirt Day, Chin’s student decorated their classroom in orange and blue, and they also made ILLINOIS posters and wrote ILLINOIS cheers. As a part of a friendly rivalry between Chin and another teacher at the school who graduated from the University of Minnesota, her students decorated his classroom in ILLINOIS colors.
She said her students were thankful and excited at receiving their own ILLINOIS T-shirts, and made a video thanking Hedeman for his generosity (embedded below). Chin said her students continue to wear their ILLINOIS T-shirts each month on College T-shirt Day.
“It helps cast a big picture for them. It instills in them a sense of college and sparks discussion about why it is important to strive for success in their education,” Chin said. “Feeling empowered to go to college gives them hope that they can achieve their dreams.”